The first state board of education assembly that includes a number of new members — all appointed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin — shall be held Aug. 17. One key merchandise on the agenda is the consideration of new draft history standards.
Even if the state board indicators off on the present draft next week, the standards will endure a spherical of public remark earlier than going again to the board for ultimate approval. The draft history standards are slated for ultimate approval this November.
Standards are up to date no less than each seven years, per state legislation. Revisions to the 2015 history and social research standards started throughout Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration; representatives from about 30 totally different teams, together with consultants on indigenous, African American, Asian American and Hispanic history, amongst different cultures and ethnicities, proposed technical edits.
Atif Qarni, former state secretary of education below Northam, instructed VPM News that one of many essential objectives of the revisions was to get college students to extra absolutely perceive the “why” of historic occasions and turn out to be higher important thinkers — not simply memorize details.
One instance Qarni pointed to is that at present, the very first thing college students study in kindergarten and first grade is the preamble to the Constitution.
“The [current] standards call for memorizing the preamble, and then being able to regurgitate that as an assessment,” he stated. “Children have no idea, ‘Why is this relevant?’ We’re not connecting the dots.”
Another downside Qarni stated he wished the new standards to handle: little to no examples given of various marginalized teams’ history.
For instance, he stated, “the Chinese Exclusion Act is mentioned once in our standards, but it doesn’t draw connections to other things that were happening in the country, and why did the Chinese Exclusion Act really occur?”
The present standards additionally solely point out that Chinese Americans performed a job in making the railroads, Qarni stated.
“When students walk away from an entire K-12 curriculum and the biggest contribution that Asian Americans had was in the railroad industry … that does a disservice,” Qarni stated. “It doesn’t give a holistic perspective of the Asian American diaspora and experiences throughout American history, and it doesn’t do it for other groups as well.”
To handle these issues, the standards had been organized extra by themes than chronology; themes embrace freedom and citizenship, colonization, immigration and compelled migration.
“You cannot put [immigration and forced migration] together and think that it is OK and acceptable. It is not,” stated Cassandra Newby-Alexander, a history professor at Norfolk State University. “It removes the inhumanity that was a part of slavery.”
Newby-Alexander co-chaired the African American History Education Commission, which helped draft about 200 proposed modifications to the state history standards.
“In Virginia, they pass a law in 1669 that allowed for the casual killing of Black people. If they in any way resisted their master and their master felt threatened, that person could kill them, and it was not seen as murder,” she stated. “And then they extended that to white people who weren’t even slaveholders three years later … If a white person felt threatened by a Black person, they could kill them with impunity.”
Newby-Alexander beneficial particulars concerning the history of lynchings of Black folks be added to the standards, amongst different subjects she stated had been utterly not noted. She stated she’s glad to see the present draft standards incorporate these suggestions.
“There’s a mythology that Virginia didn’t have too many lynchings, that somehow that was a lower South thing, which of course was not at all true. But that was the mythology built into the history of Virginia,” she stated.
She stated she hopes that reorganizing some standards by theme — as a substitute of solely by chronology — will assist college students to extra absolutely perceive the contributions of various teams, in addition to their struggles.
While drafting the new standards, Newby-Alexander and others engaged with college students from throughout the state who all appeared to say the identical factor: They wished to hear extra tales in history class and fewer about wars and dates.
“When you add up all the wars, it’s a fraction of the timeline. And yet, that’s been what we’ve focused on,” Newby-Alexander stated. “When there were studies and surveys done — especially of high school students — they complained about that. They said that most of the focus was on the wars and really not on the history.
“I think that long ago, there were these thoughts that if we talked about these wars, it would build patriotism. And actually, what it does is it builds a lot of complacency about history,” she stated.
Instead, she stated college students ought to find out about why issues are the way in which they’re in the present day.
“That’s how you build up a young person’s critical thinking, by showing connections and by getting them to inquire about the why of something,” Newby-Alexander stated.
In doing that, she hopes the new standards — if authorized — will permit college students to find out about heroes in their very own communities and the wide selection of figures who’ve carried out extraordinary issues.
“You can talk about statewide figures, you can talk about national figures, but what about in your community? Because this is what inspires young people to believe that they can make a difference in their communities,” Newby-Alexander stated.
She expressed concern about potential enter from new state board of education members, but additionally hopes that finally, politics gained’t affect the content material of the new standards. In a July memo, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow requested extra time for board members to overview the draft revisions earlier than taking an preliminary vote.
In his first govt order as governor, denouncing important race principle, Youngkin acknowledged: “We must equip our teachers to teach our students the entirety of our history — both good and bad. From the horrors of American slavery and segregation, and our country’s treatment of Native Americans, to the triumph of America’s Greatest Generation against the Nazi Empire, the heroic efforts of Americans in the Civil Rights Movement, and our country’s defeat of the Soviet Union and the ills of Communism, we must provide our students with the facts and context necessary to understand these important events.”